Save the Pine Bush Files an Amicus Brief in the Pyramid Lawsuit

By Lynne Jackson

ALBANY, NY: Todd Ommen from the Pace Environmental Ligation Clinic representing Save the Pine Bush, filed an amicus brief in March in the case known as Thomas Hart, Lisa hart, Kevin Mcdonald, Sarah Mcdonald, 1667 Western Avenue, LLC and Red-Kap Sales, Inc., v. Town of Guilderland, Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals of Guilderland, Pyramid Management Group, LLC, Rapp Road Development, LLC and Crossgates Releaseco, LLC (Hart v. Guilderland),

Hart v. Guilderland was filed by attorney James Bacon. Last November, in a lengthy and scathing decision by Supreme Court Judge Peter A. Lynch, the approval for a proposed development by Pyramid in the Pine Bush consisting of apartments, town houses and a Costco by the Town of Guilderland Planning Board was declared null and void.

Pyramid and the Town appealed Judge Lynch’s decision to the New York State Appellate Division in January. Save the Pine Bush’s amicus supports Judge Lynch’s detailed and excellent decision finding that the Town of Guilderland Planning Board did not take a “hard look” during the State Environmental Quality Review (SEQRA) process.

The amicus focuses on how “. . . the Planning Board failed to give reasoned consideration to environmental issues because they ignored relevant scientific data when making its determinations on environmental impacts. . .” For example, the Planning Board said “Sites 1, 2 and 3 are not conducive to the establishment of pitch pine-scrub oak habitat which is characteristic of the Albany Pine Bush,” and “[t]he development sites are not and have no potential to support significant ecosystem services.” No data or evidence is presented in the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) to support that conclusion. Save the Pine Bush had submitted expert testimony to the Planning Board from several experts that demonstrated that this is Pine Bush and that the sites can support significant ecosystems.

Dr. Curt Stager from Paul Smith College using his knowledge and expertise in sediments and ecological research to conclude that the site of the proposed development were Albany Pine Bush ecosystem.

Dr. Erik Kiviat from Hudsonia, concluded that the woodlands potentially supported several federal and state-listed endangered, threatened, rare, and special concern species as well as supporting common mammals, birds and other flora and fauna.

And, regarding the Karner Blue, the amicus states: “Concerning the endangered Karner Blue Butterfly, the FEIS concluded: “No suitable habitat exists on-site for the Karner Blue Butterfly, and no Karner blue butterflies were located at the site.” (R-5123). Dr Cynthia Lane, an expert on the Karner Blue population biology and habitat restoration and co-author on the Karner Blue Butterfly United States Fish and Wildlife Service recovery plan has raised serious concerns about this conclusion. (R-4910). Dr. Lane specifically questions the methodologies used in surveying the sites for the presence of Karner Blue, because the methodologies are inadequate. (R-4911).” . . . “The Board’s conclusion that there will be no potential adverse impacts to the Karner Blue Butterfly cannot be drawn without further investigation.”

Save the Pine Bush is quite pleased to file this amicus in support of Judge Lynch’s decision and is deeply appreciative of all of the legal work done by Pace and its students.

From the April – May 2021 Save the Pine Bush Newsletter.